Communities in Gaza face countless development challenges, yet two of the most stubborn but critical to overcome are ensuring sustainable access to clean drinking water and increasing the availability of jobs for Gaza's large youth population, especially young women. Coinciding with the inauguration of the first Coca-Cola bottling plant in Gaza, The Coca-Cola Foundation, National Beverage Company (NBC) and Mercy Corps today announced a new $1.3 million charitable initiative to help tackle these areas.

The Empowering Sustainable Communities in Gaza aims to reach 30,000 Gazans over the next three years. Efforts will focus on two flagship programs that will bring fresh water to families in a refugee camp, and help unemployed male and female youth engage in Gaza’s growing information and communications technology (ICT) sector through online freelancing opportunities.

The program will be implemented by Mercy Corps, which brings more than 30 years of experience in supporting Palestinian communities and in 2014 provided essential food, water and supplies to more than 250,000 Gazans. The investment builds on Coca-Cola’s 2014 support of Mercy Corps’ provision of clean water to Gaza.

'We have every confidence that by addressing both humanitarian and sustainable development challenges together, we can create a brighter future for vulnerable people within Gaza.'

Sustainable, Safe Water Access

Water access remains an enduring challenge for many of the 1.8 million people that live in Gaza. Approximately 96 percent of Gaza’s groundwater aquifers are not safe for consumption, and without regular access to water, 60 percent of the population relies on private suppliers. The new initiative will focus on providing sustainable and safe water access to vulnerable families in the Al Maghazi Refugee Camp through the construction of a local desalination plant.

Mercy Corps will undertake this work with the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and the Palestinian Water Authority. The effort will ensure sustainable clean water access for the 24,000 people living in the camp through a project that will be then be maintained by CMWU upon completion. This part of the program contributes to fulfilling the Coca-Cola’s global commitment to replenish back to communities 100 percent of the water used producing its beverages.

Gaza Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps started the Arab Developer Network Initiative (ADNI) with a grant from Google.org to connect young people with training and virtual career opportunities. Gaza Sky Geeks was later developed as an accelerator to further support standout technology entrepreneurs in Gaza with services to help them turn their ideas into viable investments. Coca-Cola will provide logistical and consulting services and lead workshops to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into concrete business plans.

 

Connected Youth

Despite an improved education system in Gaza, unemployment among 20 to 24 year-olds stands at more than 65 percent, one of the highest in the world. The new initiative will harness Gaza’s growing ICT sector to support young Palestinians and create a long-term path to economic growth, job creation and income opportunity. More than 7,000 young people will learn about online freelancing opportunities and connect with Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks initiative, Gaza’s first startup accelerator. The program will combine technical training, mentorship, networking and links to real economic opportunities.

“While Gazan communities and people face many challenges, there is also great hope through an ambitious and aspirational youth population who want to play a part in Gaza’s economic and social progress," said Paul Dudley-Hart, senior vice president, Mercy Corps. "The Empowering Sustainable Communities in Gaza initiative will play an important part in that journey over the next three years, and we have every confidence that by addressing both humanitarian and sustainable development challenges together, we can create a brighter future for vulnerable people within Gaza.”